Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Which cigar? Which drink?


When you smoke cigars at a certain point always the same question comes up: what drink to enjoy during the smoke?

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Vintage cigars from the 80s and early 90s

Ask 10 people and you'll get 10 different answers. Red wine, white wine, Port, Scotch Single Malt, coffee, beer, champagne, Sherry, Cognac, Brandy... a long list which could be continued. But who's right? In my opinion all and none of them. There is not THE drink to go along with a cigar... maybe there is one which's perfect because it's more or less neutral in taste (depending on the source and the additional ingredients)... it's water. Water is the only drink which will give you the least influence on the taste of the cigar that you are enjoying.

Wine, beer, whisky - just a little part of the range of drinks

I picked up this topic for a more detailed report due to a question risen on Instagram asking for the favorite drink with a cigar. It sounds like a very simple question but the answer is not as simple as many people would expect it to be.

As you can see here on my blog I love Scotch Single Malt Whisky but for me it's not possible to name one specific whisky which would fit to any cigar. The list of drinks you can enjoy with the brown gold is very, very long... let me try to put together the most common:
  • Red and white wine
  • Port wine
  • Scotch Single Malt
  • Irish Whiskey
  • American Whiskey (Bourbon, Rye, etc.)
  • Coffee
  • Beer (with all its different styles)
  • Sherry
  • Vodka
  • Tequila
  • Cognac
  • Brandy
  • Rum / Rhum Agricole
  • Black and green tea
  • Cocktails
  • Absinthe
  • etc.
Different drinks, different glass ware

Over the years I found some interesting combinations, I tried combos which didn't work at all... but don't forget: that's just MY personal taste... maybe a combo which worked fine for me is absolutely horrible for you. Finally you've to make your own experiences and find out what you like or not.

If you do some research about this topic you'll find many different opinions about it, here are a few which I came across:
  • It's the best to combine spirit and cigar from the same country... Cuban cigar and Cuban rum. After that statement you see the people smoking any Cohiba combined with a Havana Club 3 yo. Neat, of course. I'm sorry to say but I wouldn't use that even for a cocktail, there I use at least the 7 yo... but there are much better rums around than that... just my personal opinion.
  • Combine a light cigar with a strong drink and a strong cigar with a light drink. Hrmmm... it seems like people wanna overpower one with the other... for me it's definitely vice versa: strong cigar + strong drink (and strong means for me strong in taste and aroma)
  • Beer is absolutely no match for a cigar because of the carbonization. I have to disagree because it can be a great match... btw: there are beers floating around with a low carbonization...
  • The best drink to combine with a cigar is an old vintage champagne. It definitely can be a good combo.
  • Whisk(e)y is too strong to be combined with a cigar. Really? I agree that the taste will be influenced but that can also be an interesting experience.
  • Water is the only drink to be enjoyed with a cigar to avoid any influence on the taste. I agree on that if I smoke a cigar which I don't know. But you have to be careful with the water too... there are waters which are not neutral tastewise because they contain a lot of minerals.

If you want to learn more about those different pairings you can search some help in the literature... and there's a lot stuff around which can help you. First of all you should know the partners well that you wanna pair. Therefore it's definitely helpful to taste them separately, maybe you also fill your knowledge with some background information of the cigar and the drink...

Some literature

The book "Cigarre & Co" (which is German only) is a nice collection of combinations of drinks and cigars with some general explanations of the drink itself, general recommendations and finally for each section some proposals of possible combos. It can definitely be helpful to make the first steps in the materia, especially if you're new to it...

Quintero Churchill, Dunhill Tubos, 1994

Montecristo No. 2 Gran Reserva... goes well with an Ardbeg Uigeadail 2003

In my opinion - and that's also a theory that you can find from different sources - the drink should be adapted to the different phases of the cigar. Normally the cigar develops during the smoking time, the body gets stronger from third to third... therefore you should have the "lightest" drink in the beginning and the "strongest" at the end... whatever you personally define as light and strong. This means if you want the perfect drink to your cigar that it's not only one but maybe at least two or three.

I made this experiment with a Cohiba Pyramide Extra (this one was a pre-release one which was rolled also with Medio Tiempo in it which made it even more intensive aroma-wise). The first half of the cigar was accompanied by an Anchor Steam Beer, the second half by a 13yo. Laphroaig which's been finished in a Chateau Latour Cask. For me it was a great combo and made the cigar definitely a perfect pleasure because both drinks complimented this excellent smoke very well. My full review of the cigar can be found here: http://bit.ly/CohibaPE

First half: Anchor Steam Beer ; second half: Laphroaig 13yo., Chateau Lafite finish

Another pairing including a detailed tasting report I did with a Vegas Robaina Familiares from 1998 and four beers from Brew Moon in New Zealand. If you are interested in my impressions, you can find them here: http://bit.ly/Robaina_Brew_Moon

Robaina Familiares and Brew Moon 'Dark Side of the Moon' Stout

Ok, let me show you some more of the combos that I already enjoyed, but don't expect any detailed descriptions, it was just pure pleasure. They worked all fine for me, maybe you'll like them too... you've to try it to make the experience on your own.

Unsweetened ice tea, Padovani, Belgian beer, Caipirinhia, Scotch Single Malt, Coffee 

As always there is also here an exception of the rule: the Trinidad brand is the only one for me for which you can make a general advice for a drink to go with the smoke... which is champagne. I prefer to use a sparkling wine from Mauler, Switzerland which is made like a French campagne. It goes very well with any Trinidad I smoked... Reyes, Fundadores, Robusto T, Ingenios etc. A friend from Canada recommended it to me and I tried it out... and liked it.

Trinidad and Swiss "champagne"

I could continue the list of pro's and con's for different drinks and combinations but I think the message is clear: there is no wrong or right, combine whatever you like... 

4 comments:

  1. Very nice write up and very nice pictures! I feel I need to smoke a cigar and pair it with a nice drink, right now. :-) And me too I like the Mauler!

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    1. Thx for the feedback. The Mauler is really, you should try the Rosé which is available at Denner right now.

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  2. Brilliant writeup of a very interesting topic Heiko! To my suprise you said Trinidad and champagne/Mauler, a combination I really enjoy myself. I enjoy everything from coffee to Madeira with my cigars, but if I should choose my favorites it would be Delamain cognac and champagne with some cellar time on them. Highland Park 18 is also a favorite of mine, but my whisky knowledge and experience is zero compared to yours. Merry Christmas Heiko and family! Arild

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    1. Thx for your comment, Arild. It was really interesting to put together the information for that posting... but it's like I wrote in the last sentence: there is no general rule, people should drink with their cigar whatever they like.

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